Art


I can’t believe how steadfast, true, and wonderful my friends are. I had a serious accident in early February, and even spent an overnight at the hospital. Once home again, I refused requests from friends to come visit, and basically just slept a lot, because I was trying to heal up as fast as possible. My friends kept thinking of me anyway, wishing me well in a variety of ways. I heard from them through the mail, emails, phone calls and from what Jim would tell me when he came home from whatever he was attending in town. My friends honestly helped hasten my healing process with the love they showed through their thoughtfulness and caring words.

Last week, Jeni Cottrell, Nancy Canyon and Linda Suther visited. They surprised me with a package.

Linda, Nancy and Jeni brought this package along.

On the outside, a pair of shiny green ribbons held a quilted book together. A tug on the ribbons, and the book opens.

“A flock of geese leave their lake and take wing, turning to poems in the sky.”

The first page was drawn by Laurie Potter. I love the geese! The quote is from SunWolf. Our pond is  just starting to have geese visit again. They are the poems that bring spring from wherever they come from.

This page is by the comic illustrator John McColloch. Of course. I used to watch Mr. Ed and Wilbur Post with my brothers back in the sixties. That was like yesterday, not. I always liked this smart horse. He was also a smarty pants.

Years before Hubble, I thrust myself far up into the night and saw that the constellations were wildly colored. This frightened me, so I swam a river at night waiting for the stars to resume their whiteness to adapt to my limits. —Jim Harrison

This quote from Amy Armitage (by Jim Harrison) shares the artist’s perspective on things. You have to wonder if the stars continue to be that wild, but let us see them in their whiteness so as not to scare us so much. Staring up into them at night is still startling. I’m glad they aren’t neon.

But Amy wrote an original poem just to make me laugh:

Her eyes are like moonbeams if moonbeams are green.
She’s shy but determined, on horses she’s keen.

She paints and she prints, designs posters and books.
She makes stuff from pond-scum, and even can cook.

Did I mention this woman can write a mean poem?
The bio o’ Anita; indeed it’s a tome!

—Amy Armitage

Ha ha ha, Amy, you did make me laugh. My face hurt, but I laughed anyway. You are a delight.

Linda Hughes, this is a command I’ll follow. Thanks! The drawings of the flowers offer more promises of spring coming soon. Thanks for them, too. They remind me of the cheerful blue-flowered teapot you made. 🙂 Tea from that pot is always extra special.

Ha ha. Denise Snyder is so funny. But sometimes I believe she means what she says. In the past, Deni has reminded me that we are good people. And that we, each of us, can sparkle, brightly, even, and we can be as creative as we can be, without worry, and be loved by many people. That’s a life worth living.

That’s the end of the book. But then, in the bag, is a handmade quilt, made like in the old days, with lots of people working together to make a quilt. I don’t know if they had an actual quilting bee, but they had that many people involved in the making of this thoughtful and detailed quilt. I have a tattered baby blanket that was made for me when I was a newborn. I love it, and this patchwork quilt is already a treasure.

This is the quilt!

The first thing that struck me when I saw this quilt was the number of friends that would have participated in making something like this. Then the idea that everyone wrote something directed at me, wishing me well, making me smile, giving support. Thank you, friends. Then the colors. They were thoughtfully chosen by people wishing me well. They are my colors. And then, the details kept showing up: perfect, thoughtful, caring, loving, poetic, artful, and sometimes very funny, too. You’ll see.

“Surround yourself with comfort and support of loved ones and you will always feel safe.”

The upper left square is by Shirley Erickson. Her words are refreshing and, yes, they actually did make me feel safe. She added extra stitches to this colorful square, little details that mean something special.

The lettering in this square, and several others, is by my good friend Nancy Canyon! Nicely done.

I love collaborations. Period. Poets with poets. Artists working together. Poets and artists. Musicians. Poets and musicians. Musicians and artists. This poem by Lana Ayers is after a painting by Nancy Canyon. Lana published my book What the Alder Told Me. I illustrated and published Lana’s book The Moon’s Answer. And quilters are collaborators, too! 

This poem by poet and artist Nancy Canyon, draws words together to create a safe and wonderful place to be. Evergreen smells so delicious.

Three poetic friends put their words on this square: Linda Suther, Sheila Sondik and Katie Humes. And a little bird, too.

Linda is part of my book group, The Fire Readers; Sheila is a poet and artist that is published by my Egress Studio Press; Katie Humes is a poet and writer; and all of these people are supportive members of our local arts community. Linda did the bulk of the final sewing of the quilt. She was amazingly careful with the details, and there were many. You’ll have to see it in person to get what I mean. Beautiful work.

About this point, you have to wonder how this project was put together. It’s kind of a miracle when a project is happening in a timely manner and there are a lot of “creatives” involved. The Idea Wizard, Jeni Cottrell, is the likely instigator, and the artists and poets around Bellingham and Whatcom County are known for their big hearts and their loving community. Deadline? Doesn’t matter. Our friends are accommodating, and willing to work together. Seems like it worked out just fine!

Renee Sherrer is the proud owner of Social Fabric on Commercial Avenue, downtown Bellingham. She is a fabric artist, and understands a sewing machine inside and out. At her store you can browse through amazing things to wear and see lots of great art, too.

Here is the “reveal” where the artist’s initials R.S. are hiding. R.S. = Renee Sherrer.

Right now, I feel more loved than I ever have, by friends and family. It feels very nice. Maybe even a little overwhelming. But certainly very nice.

If you look closely into this photo, you’ll see six French knots embroidered onto this square by Beverly Larson. French knots!

Beverly says smartly honest things, like “Life sometimes throws a big old bucket of whatever is has on you.” True. “To live is to Risk—pain or reward.” Sometimes it’s both. “Dare. Dare to live every day.” This is a worthwhile challenge. And Bev is reasonable, too: “Shake off what gets on you and wear the stains that you can’t get off.” I think I may have been a little “stained” by this accident. But I’ll be proudly wearing whatever I look like when I’m healed up. Even my lip thingy. But for now, I still want to stay away from most public things until I can get a few more teeth in my head. 🙂

Steve Satushek knows how to have fun as an artist. I’ve been invited to play in his studio, along with Harold, sometime soon, maybe this summer even.

This is a delightful artwork. The gestural lines are happy, maybe even singing.

Mary Oliver is a much loved poet across North America. This poem is well worth a good reading, as are many of her poems.

Jeni Cottrell and Lee Cole love poetry, and are both in my book group. Jeni’s in my art group, too. I keep looking at the details of this quilt—every square sends love and healing thoughts directly for my injury. I have been listening to the birds gather more and more every day as spring arrives. Their songs remind me of the friends whose words sing from this quilt. How can I not be grateful for each voice.

Marsha Culver is a fiber artist. She made her square from the color codes off the edges of several bolts of cloth. I like the colors very much. And the names, too. Poetry is everywhere. So is art.

Marsha is my beer-buddy at the monthly Tuesday Artists Group. Most of the ladies drink wine. She drinks wine, too. But she drinks beer with me. Such a good-friend thing to do. And she wished me the speediest of recoveries. I’m doing my best.

Distance

There is little that separates
the sky from the sea. Ahead of me
two figures walk the beach. Their bodies
graceful, true to their images. It is easy
to regard them. I gather a stone;
a blue heron glides to a large oak.
How predicable the world seems, your backs
turned toward me, trusting, like friends.
In the distance, people are shoveling
some type of clams, it hardly matters which,
the waves unfolding at my feet.

—Jeanne Yeasting

Mary Jo Maute, from my art group, is a prolific artist whose paintings are colorful abstractions that carry symbols and metaphors like poetry. This charming painting uses a different style from her usual, to send tender healing thoughts. She and her husband Ted visited here just last week. Even the sun came out.

Harold! Mr. Niven. You may know who he is as the guy who tie-dyes dollar bills in starkly vivid colors. I recently learned he discovered tie-dying in the bathroom of a moving train makes a great studio because the train’s back-and-forth movement sloshes the dye containers just right. Ogden Nash got celery right in this poem. Plus, being on a soft food diet certainly requires stewing before chewing.

This beautiful poem must be a clever collaboration between Caitlin and Jacob Jans. Maybe little June helped out, too.

All part of a pond
handmade and weather blessed
gentle green in the chorus of
friends around a table.

—Caitlyn and Jacob

Notes from Craig, Mike, Nancy and Jeff, Larry, Jim, Cricket, Prentiss, Wade, Ron, Mark and Barb.

This quilt square has messages from the Friday Night Bellingham Bar & Grill friends. It’s funny that it compares to the writings that can be found on a cast. They’re composed of well-wishes, toasts and even poetry. All thoughtfully full of the warmth of friends.

Ellen Bass is another nationally loved poet. She has a way of turning things around so we can see them differently. And she has a sense of humor that surprises.

Sue Erickson sent this poem square for the quilt. This is another way our arts community works together to get projects beautifully done, and efficiently, too. I love the poem, and may have to let myself be inspired by this Bass poem to write a poem about that horse I rode for the last year.

Robert Wrigley is a poet from Idaho who often writes about the rural life, describing the beauty, horror and pure wonder found in the natural world.

Nancy Pagh chose a poem that describes part of the deep relationship horses and humans can have. It’s generally built from mutual respect… but where the human might feel awe, a horse may experience fear. It depends. My old mares, Flicka and Moby, both enjoyed human companionship in a more gracious way than most of the horses I’ve met. I had them each for somewhere around twenty years, and they lived into their early thirties. I still miss them. Mr. Stetson? He was just catching on. The calm scent of the rain and the sun was on his breath, but the day of the accident, the silver thaw was in his eyes.

This square is from James Bertolino, my partner, friend, husband, and hero.

The afternoon of the accident, it was Jim who picked me up from the snow blushed red. A lucky thing for me, but still a tragedy for him. That’s the day he became my hero. We’ve had chickens now for a year, and Jim had come out of the house to gather the new eggs. The rooster has the most optimistic crow I’ve ever heard. Even at four in the morning, his voice rises like new hope.

Blocks of four squares divide the quilt. Each block uses cloth with flora coordinated with natural tones. They are sewn by several different people, and then Nancy Canyon sewed them into banner-like portions of the quilt. Those were then sewn together to finish the quilt by Linda Suther. Such a coordinated effort is difficult, but look how wonderfully it turned out.

As the complement of green, red plays a very important role in this quilt, accentuating my favorite color. As colors, green (for me) symbolizes the natural world, and red, of course, offers the meaning found in love.

This is the message of the quilt my friends have made. I love them, too.

Thank you, Jeni Cottrell, Linda Suther, Nancy Canyon, Shirley Erickson, Laurie Potter, John McColloch, James Bertolino, Linda Hughes, Amy Armitage, Lee Cole, Mary Jo Maute, Katie Humes, Renee Sherrer, Denise Snyder, Lana Ayers, Sheila Sondik, Beverly Larson, Steve Satushek, Marsha Culver, Jeanne Yeasting, Harold Niven, Caitlin and Jacob Jans, Sue Erickson, Nancy Pagh and the B.B. & G. Crowd (Craig, Jeff, Nancy, Mike, Wade, Ron, Mark, Barb, Cricket and Prentiss). And to all my other friends and family for being there, too. You know who you are. And so do I.

About the Accident—

On February 5th, the weather was snowy, everything covered in ice, the wind blowing enough to break branches and topple trees. The horse I’d been riding for a year or so, “Mr.” Stetson, was in my barn. By riding, I mean just that: I groomed and rode him, but didn’t feed him, trim hooves, or pay for vet visits during all that time. Perfect arrangement, in my opinion, because a horse needs to be groomed and ridden for his own health, and that helped with my own health. But this winter was a hard on him, and he had lost a lot of weight and had a bad case of rain rot, so I offered to house him in my barn, and give him some special care. He was here for a little more than three weeks, staying in an outdoor paddock during the day and a large, cozy stall in the barn at night. He’d already gained back a serious amount of weight, and had only the last bit of rain rot left. But the weather was still awfully cold. Snow and ice coated the electric fencing around the paddock, and pulled the strands to the ground, shorting it out. So after he was in the barn for more than twenty four hours, I decided I should at least take him for a walk. Well, to make a long story shorter, he was a little surprised at the difference that had happened outside while he was inside the darkness of the barn. It was a bright light gray outside, and that got his attention right away. The snow was deeper, the ice thicker, the wind was blowing, and a little ways in front of him at the pond, branches kept breaking, and crashing to the ground in a flurry. But he walked nicely beside me toward the pond anyway, lay down and rolled, even. At that, I let go of the lead rope because I know that horses tend to get frisky and prance around a bit, sometimes kick up their heels right when they get up from rolling. He did all of that—at a safe distance. I knew he wouldn’t go very far in the snow. I was right about that, too. So I picked up his lead rope, and began to walk him to the barn. I don’t remember what happened after that, except that as we headed back, he seemed happy enough. The next thing I remember is waking up in the hospital the next day.

Evidently, he gave me a huge smack right on my kisser, and knocked me out. What a guy! Jim (my hero) found me about twenty minutes later when he came out to see if the chickens had laid any eggs yet. He noticed Mr. Stetson standing out by the pond with his lead rope hanging down, which isn’t a normal thing around here. When he came out to see where I was, he found me unconscious, lying in the snow. Yes, Jim describes a pool of blood, at that point, but I don’t remember any of this. He put the horse in the barn, somehow walked me to the house, cleaned me up, and took me directly to the emergency room. When I woke up the next day, I had a concussion, five or six missing teeth, and a face that was like a Kodachrome balloon. Later, I learned that I had a Le Fort fracture (which is mid-face), leaving me with broken cheeks and upper jaw. Didn’t hurt much because the nerves quit working for a while, and my face went numb. For the next few weeks, I slept A LOT, and continue to feel the need for naps. I’m still on a soft food diet (i.e. liquid diet), for which it’s normal to lose ten pounds in the first couple weeks, which I dutifully did.

Somehow, word got around. I began to receive cards and emails and phone calls from my friends. But because I didn’t want to alarm them, and was too tired to stay awake, I decided not to have company except my son Isaac, and cyberspacely, my daughter Angela—my grownup kids. Well, actually, a couple friends did stop by, but my head had a hard time tracking conversation and staying awake during that time. So I decided not to have any more company until I could stay awake for most of the day, my color was close to normal, and the swelling was reduced a reasonable amount. And that’s the story of my accident. There are more details, of course, but this is probably more than enough. Right?

Afterward

My face troubles were repaired in surgery, which left me with seven small titanium plates holding my cheeks and upper jaw together, and more than thirty screws holding them and my bones in place. The surgery was pretty intense, but I was asleep. I slept most of the time after, too, and nothing really hurt like you’d think it would. Of course, I slept through child-birthing twice, so maybe my pain threshold is higher than normal. (I woke up for the actual births, though. Hello, Angela. Hello, Isaac. My two miracles.) Now, I’m feeling pretty good. In late April, the University of Washington Advanced General Dentistry will give me a call and schedule appointments to fix my teeth up. Then you can expect to see my face around town a little more. 🙂

For the past year or so, I’ve been busy with family things, and neglected a lot of my art&poetry-focussed things (i.e. my business). But, I’ve recently made another schedule, one with a (hopefully) doable plan for publishing a couple of extremely patient poets; for making and showing my artworks; and for putting together a poetry manuscript of my own. The family things more serious and personal than I’d like to mention in this blog.

The two poets I mention have very likely been grumbling about their book not getting done, and I certainly wouldn’t blame them if they were. In fact, I’d encourage them to complain, at least a little. The recent and future books by Egress Studio Press are handmade, limited editions that contain artwork, and so they take more time to publish than usual, and require stretches of time dedicated to them alone. I describe them as poetry art-books, and I’m going public now by saying I think they’ll be ready by June. I will be hard at work on them until then.

I’m making some progress on the artwork for the cover of both, and the interior of one. That’s mainly what I want to show in this posting. One will have a few original linoleum block prints in the hard cover, and copies of them in the soft cover version. The other will have a monotype reprint on the cover. And those are the main focus of my thoughts right now.

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This is what I’m working on for the cover of one of the books. These are monoprints, and I’ll be making several more before I’m through. Those two on the upper right are just me goofing around with color and paper and texture and the et ceteras that come from the draft form of art. I see I have a ways to go before I have the final version.

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These are sketches for the second book. I’m trying out layouts for linoleum block prints. Each of these has possibilities, but the final will look different from these. The book will have five or six of them, including the cover.

You’ve probably already seen The Moon’s Answer by Lana Ayers. The pen and ink illustrations took quite a while to complete. But the final layout and assembly of the books still required a lot more time before project completion. Currently, all the soft covers are finished and have been in the hands of readers since the summer of 2016. The six casebound books were finished in November 2016. And I am looking forward to finishing the final three accordion books later this year.

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Hard copies of The Moon’s Answer. On the lower left are the six casebound books with handmade paper on the cover and endpapers. Top and right is the accordion book, with all the interior and exterior papers using two colors of handmade paper.

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In this close up of the front cover, you can see the crosshatching that is a part of every illustration in the book, and is on the hand-dyed lavender paper. The moon is cut out of the lavender paper and pasted onto a yellow paper to create the two-color presentation, as it is throughout the accordion books. 

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All of the books are signed and numbered by the author and illustrator on the page opposite the colophon. (Sorry for the out-of-focus photo. I’m in a rush.)

 

The previously mentioned schedule requires that I keep this blog updated with what’s happening at Egress Studio.  All I have to do is follow this schedule a minimum of 75% of the time, and I’ll stay on course. Wish me luck. So far, so good. I’ll post about the manuscript I’m putting together later on, as well as other posts about the poets and artists around the Northwest.

Last spring, I had a birthday. I thought it might be fun to do plein air painting that day out at the pond, so I invited a few people to paint and party with us. We had a lot of fun. Even the dogs were celebrating.

Then during the fall studio tour in Whatcom County, I saw that my friend Nancy Canyon had a painting on the wall that looked very familiar. On closer inspection, of course it looked familiar. It was a painting of the pond! Now it’s hanging in the studio.

Noon Road Pond by Nancy Canyon

Noon Road Pond by Nancy Canyon

Nancy Canyon is a Bellingham poet and artist who also teaches and writes memoir and fiction. A talented lady! You can see more of her work here: http://nancycanyon.com.

The photo below shows the current view from the little spit between the two ponds near where Nancy painted. Right now, the two are one pond, and frozen over solid. I think I might even ice skate out there tonight under the gibbous moon. We’ll see if the wind dies down enough.

Frozen over, December 8

The pond is frozen over, December 8

Even if I don’t skate, I love this time of year if the pond freezes over. Otherwise, I’m waiting impatiently for the warmer colors of spring.

Last Saturday, I took a four-hour toolmaking workshop at Bison Bookbinding & Letterpress (http://bisonbookbinding.com/) in Bellingham, WA, with Jim Croft, who teaches the old ways of bookbinding and papermaking in Idaho. See his website here: http://www.traditionalhand.com

So we all met in Bison’s workshop, and Jim showed us several boxes of deer and elk bones from which we could choose our subjects for the class. He also showed us several files and sandpapers that we would be working with, as well as a right-handed hewing axe, and a hand drill. He also had a left-handed hewing axe. This type of axe is flat on one side, and is use to gently shape the bones prior to filing and sanding. I tried it, and it worked just fine. He even had a stump handy next to a backboard, so the chips wouldn’t fly too far.

Three bone tools on handmade paper dyed with blackberries

Three bone tools on handmade paper dyed with blackberries


I chose a medium-small deer bone to start with, hewed it, and then used three files and four sandpapers on it to make a bone folder. The inside was indented, as a bone is sometimes, and Jim showed me a few tools made of broken knife or saw blades. They were about three to four inches long, and had one (or both) end sharpened for scraping out the bone. I tried that, and it seemed to work okay, and then… more sandpapering, but with the scrap rolled up.

Then I made another, smaller, bone folder from another deer bone. It is a tan “wooden” color because it was buried in the dirt for a while to clean it. The first one was boiled, which kept it white. I finished the second one about a half hour before the workshop was over. I kept sanding it, since you can sand them until they are smooth as gems, which is even smoother than a baby’s bottom. I did that for ten minutes, thinking about getting another bone before I finally made up my mind and did.

A short thin bone, this time. I was thinking of an awl. So I hewed that one pointed on one end, and got to work. I still have some sanding to do on all of the tools I made, but I ended up with three perfectly useful handmade bone tools. My friend Nancy was also there, and was able to leave the workshop with her own bookbinding tools. Each one is different from the other. That is only one of the beauties of making things by hand.

Two bone folders and the beginning of an awl

Two bone folders and the beginning of an awl

The Transformations & Translations Show will be held at The Works Studio, Gallery and Conversations: 301 W. Holly, #U3, Bay Street Village, Bellingham, WA. Stop in to see the artworks during Bellingham’s Art Walk Night—Friday, June 5 from 6 to 9 PM. And also on Friday, June 12 from 7 to 9 PM, for an evening of music, poetry and art (with musician Allison Preisinger, and poets Nancy Canyon, James Bertolino and Anita K. Boyle). This event is an “official” pop-up gallery show.

Mary Jo Maute in her studio

Mary Jo Maute in her studio (photo by Rifka MacDonald)

Mary Jo Maute is an acclaimed and respected artist working in Western Washington. Her art has been celebrated in New York, North Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Colorado, Wyoming, California and Washington. No wonder she’s smiling.

“Self Portrait” by Mary Jo Maute

Richly colored with provocative shapes, subtle details, and more than a few surprises, Maute’s paintings never fail to challenge and delight the viewer. At a distance, this self portrait offers an appealing arrangement of strong color areas. Then, on closer viewing, it is full of forms that suggest creatures and symbols.

“Burial” by Mary Jo Maute

It’s exciting to closely examine all the marks and areas between the forms. What the viewer brings to abstraction is very important to the experience of the painting. For example, the blue area could be a reclining person or animal. I see a bird, a goose—and the brown area could be a nest. There may be a green dancing figure with a brown paw near the center foreground. But I tend to enjoy animals and nature. None of this might be the artist’s intention, but this is what happened for me in looking deeper into the paint.

In 1997, Maute received the Distinguished Service Award from the Washington Art Education Association. She continues to offer Whatcom County residents many opportunities to learn more about art at the Whatcom Museum.

“Reading in Bed” by Mary Jo Maute

In this painting titled “Reading in Bed,” some of the shapes seem animal-like, while others might suggest an open book or a bed. Symbolically, the rectangular area could be read as both a book and a bed. The outlines create a contrast with the color forms. Much of the painted surface offers broad, soft modulations, while other areas are more stippled or even ragged. The white areas, or spots, might suggest the ability to look through the painting to what might be beyond.

Maute’s solo exhibitions include Yellowstone Art Museum in Montana, Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle, and Allied Arts of Whatcom County in Bellingham. She has received seven awards since 1982, including a Ucross Foundation Residency in 2013, and a Montana Arts Council Artist Fellowship in 1987.

Anita K. Boyle, with camera

Anita K. Boyle, with camera

Anita K. Boyle is an artist who is also a poet, graphic designer and publisher. She was an art and English major at Western Washington University, graduating cum laude in 1998. Her works have been exhibited at the Hanson Scott Gallery in Seattle, Loomis Hall Gallery in Blaine, Jansen Art Center in Lynden, and Lucia Douglas Gallery, Allied Arts of Whatcom County and Whatcom Museum in Bellingham.

“Municipal Circuitry” by Anita K. Boyle

Boyle’s assemblages often use her handmade paper, as well as items she’s gathered, which, in numerous ways, represent aspects of her life and the lives around her—both natural and inanimate. “Municipal Circuitry” includes washers, electrical components, part of a cell phone, a roll of copper wire and a wasp nest on handmade paper with dandelion seeds. The assemblage is placed on green ink-stained plywood under copper-foiled glass.

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“Song of the Bone Crickets” by Anita K. Boyle

In “Song of the Bone Crickets,” the black clusters spread across the lower area consist of ink that dried on glass and was then scraped off in rolls. The left elephant garlic flower cap holds moth wing “petals” around a section of wasp nest. Below the garlic cap on the right are two songbird bones that appear as crickets to the artist.

“Leaf Poem” by Anita K. Boyle

“Leaf Poem” begins with a stanza of corrugated cardboard that supports a row of garden snail shells. The thin line across the cardboard is a sky-blue insulated wire. Below the cardboard, we see tea leaves, strands of ink shavings on the left and right sides, and metal fasteners, all on handmade paper. On the black paper, there is a column of poppy pods, and the main leaf-poem stanza of the artwork, which has chrysanthemum leaves in a rhythm on more paper. The ink on the right column is woven into the fasteners, and is intended to be the final stanza of the poem.

Both artists, Mary Jo Maute and Anita K. Boyle, communicate through symbolism in their artworks through different media. They use different mediums to transform their ideas into a visual format. The placement of each element within the artworks is a translation from the imagination to the visual, and has yet to be translated into language, or actual words. Artists often attempt to “write” the ineffable.

—written by James Bertolino

From the Press Release…

Two artists—Mary Jo Maute and Anita K. Boyle—will share their evocative paintings and assemblages in Prentiss Cole’s The Works Studio… for two Fridays in June. On June 5, Maute and Boyle will be present to chat with you about art and technique. Then, on June 12, Boyle will read her poems, and be joined by singer/songwriter, Allison Preisinger, as well as poets Nancy Canyon and James Bertolino.

Mary Jo Maute’s work is inspired by natural forms – the human figure, animals, plants and micro-organisms. She prefers to jump in and let the ideas, shapes and relationships emerge uncensored. Images are layered, erased, overlapped, and interconnected to create a luminous interplay between the sensual nature of paint and marks, and the intangible aspects of memory, sensation, and emotion.

Anita K. Boyle’s assemblages could be called environmental self-portraits. For this show, she will feature artworks that are language-related in some way: titles include “R Story,” “Letter from the Country,” and “Self Portrait of an Iceberg,” among others. Boyle’s experience as a graphic designer adds balance, contrast, texture and value to each piece, as much as her understanding of several art techniques—from papermaking to drawing, painting and more. Natural and synthetic materials present a communication between conflict and harmony. Stories are the inspiration for some of the assemblages; in others, a story happens as the artwork is being made, and still others tell their own stories.

About Mary Jo Maute

Former Montana resident, Maute now lives in Bellingham, Washington and works as education coordinator at the Whatcom Museum of History & Art. She earned an MFA from University of Colorado, Boulder and a B.F.A. from Daemen College in her native city, Buffalo, NY. She has exhibited in New York, California, Colorado, Montana and Washington and has work in public and private collections including the Yellowstone Art Museum, Billings, MT; the Missoula Museum of the Arts, Missoula, MT; and Deaconess Medical Center, Billings, MT. She recently completed a residency at Ucross Foundation in Clearmont, Wyoming. 

About Anita K. Boyle

Poet and artist Anita K. Boyle is a freelance graphic designer and sole proprietor at Egress Studio, and a publisher of Washington State poets. She is currently working on illustrating a book of poems—The Moon’s Answer by Lana Ayers—which will be published by Egress Studio Press in both hard and soft cover, handmade, limited editions before year’s end. She is also working on several new assemblages that use handmade and naturally-made paper, which you can see at the July juried exhibit at Allied Arts of Whatcom County. New poems are also in the works. In 1998, she graduated cum laude with a BA from Western Washington University (Art and English majors.)

A few weeks ago, a new paper mould came in the mail. The form is for an 11 by 14 inch page size. As a publisher of poetry, that size is good for two reasons. First, it can be folded into quarters to make eight pages into a hand-built book. That’s exciting to me. Second, it’s a perfect size for making a poetry broadside. This is also exciting.

A couple days ago, I tore up some paper from my recycle box of trimmings generated by the cards and books I make.

This is Egress Studio's recycled paper bin overflowing with paper trimmings.

This is Egress Studio’s recycled paper bin overflowing with trimmings.

As the paper is torn up, it goes into a bucket of water to rest and soak for a day or two.

Bucket of water and torn paper.

Bucket of water and torn paper.

Tearing paper is good exercise for your fingers, hands and wrists. Besides the blue and green papers, I added some white, yellow, and manila-colored papers. Text weight and heavier card stock works without a problem. I also used cotton linters for the first time. That was interesting. I’ll probably write a post about that, too.

Inside the Bucket

Taking a closer look, you can see torn paper in water. No surprise. But I do like how sunlight comes in through the bucket on the left and spreads over the paper.

After soaking for 24 to 48 hours, I set up to make the paper. I arranged my designated-for-paper blender, two large boards, lots of old towels, a couple buckets to hold the pulp, and a bin large enough to dip the 11″by14″ paper mould. I made a huge watery mess inside the studio yesterday. First, I ran the paper and linter chunks through the blender—a little at a time—with paper sizing added, and put the pulp in two separate buckets: one for the recycled paper and one for the white cotton linters. Water goes all over the cement floor. I make paper outside whenever possible for that very reason. Papermaking requires plenty of water. The bin is filled half-full of water, and then about eight cups of pulp is added. I used about half recycled and half linters at first. When I ran out of the linters, I just used up the recycled paper. I also added some mermaid hair algae (from our pond) and, to one batch, the lint of green-dyed wool yarn. Well, I used scissors, so it was actually fresh-cut-lint, but that sounds ridiculous.

Each time I dipped the mould into the pulp bin, I “rolled” a sheet of soon-to-be paper onto a felt sheet, which was dampened earlier so it would accept the paper off the mould a little easier. I made a stack of the new sheets on one of the large boards, and when the pulp was used up, took the dripping stack outside, put the other board on top and stood on it for a while. Water gushed out everywhere at this point. I put a couple of cement bricks on top, and let it sit until this morning.

This morning, I put the clothes line in front of the furnace, found my clothespins, and began to hang the paper to dry. At first, I messed a few of the papers up, but I can use them anyway. They can be ironed, and I can use them in artworks where flatness and squareness isn’t as important as when the paper might be used in a book or as a broadside.

The old clothes line, umbrella style.

The old clothes line, umbrella style.

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Sunlight and clotheslines go well together.

The paper turned out a beautiful, creamy light green, just as I’d hoped. I’ll make better paper later. The wrinkles, bubbles and tears are all things that can be avoided. This was the first stack of paper I made with the new larger mould, so I got a little carried away this morning when removing the felts from the stack. But I was careful enough with a large percentage of them.

The rest of the photos show the texture and color of the papers. I made an attempt at replicating the color for the internet. It’s close. In these photos, you can see the white felts, which aren’t felt at all, but synthetic. They do their job very well. And you can see some of the textures and incidentals. Papermakers call added flower petals, lint, algae, etc., “incidentals,” which is a good use of the word.

Four papers hanging.

Four papers hanging.

One sheet of paper.

This sheet of paper was fairly uniform.

handmade paper

This sheet is not in focus, but you can see larger chunks of the white cotton linters and long streaks of mermaid hair algae.

Corner

As the paper dries, it lightens up a bit. Deckle edges.

paper-9149

Another corner has lots of texture. If I feel like it, I can iron this sheet so it would be much flatter, but I’ll decide that later.

paper-9139

This is one of the things I’m trying for with the mermaid hair algae. I like it when the individual strand standsBellin out a little. Not too much, not to little. (It’s possible I’ll need new glasses if I’m going to continue taking photos.)

paper-9138

I also like it when the paper looks sort of like a science project.

The paper is still drying downstairs. It probably has another day or two to go. Then, I’ll put it in high-graded stacks, and see what I can do with it.

The Poet As Art features Raúl Sánchez and Marjorie Manwaring on Friday March 29, 7 pm. Please join us at the Lucia Douglas Gallery in Bellingham.

Please excuse the improper accent in Raúl's last name in the post card (and poster).

Please excuse the improper accent in Raúl’s last name in the image above (and poster).

Before we start the interview, it would be good to note, as a quick introduction to Raúl Sánchez, that he read at Elliott Bay Book Company last summer, and we’ve been making attempts to set up a reading with him since his book was published.

His  long-awaited debut collection of poems is titled All Our Brown-Skinned Angels (MoonPath Press, 2012), about which Francisco X. Alarcón says:

“I open All Our Brown-Skinned Angels, the new collection of poems by Raúl Sánchez, as a book of intimate, personal prayers. But the prevailing Judeo-Christian theology is turned upside down in these poems. Here, the Earth is sacred … Raúl Sánchez is the contemporary Netzalhuacóyotl of the Northwest, who lives in damp Seattle … and has come out with wondrous poems in praise of life that are liberating prayers for every day.”

All Our Brown-Skinned Angels cover

All Our Brown-Skinned Angels cover

Wet is right! The photo on the event poster is from our pond on Noon Road in Bellingham reaching flood level in March. Or was that late February? At any rate, the level moves up and down so much lately, it’s like the pond is breathing. This is the weather we live with. Well, I digress.

At Elliott Bay, Raúl read with MoonPath Press publisher, poet and fiction writer Lana Hechtman Ayers and the musically inclined poet John Burgess—both fogbound poets from around Puget Sound. I would have liked to have been there, because each of these poets is well worth hearing, and such different writers from each other!

While it has always been important, with current events as they are right now, it may be more crucial than ever to hear the poems of Raúl Sánchez. Hear what he says about his poems in the following interview, and you may see what I mean. He is full of seriousness and humor.

An Interview Raúl Sánchez with for The Poet as Art

What aspects of your experience keep you writing poetry?

There are many experiences I’ve had as an immigrant. Those include relationships, employment, political situations and the diaspora away from México.

Are there features of your life that have run contrary to you being, or continuing to be, a poet?

Yes, the first one will be that I do not have formal education from any educational institution in the USA. That makes me feel incapable to write Poetry. However, I started journaling and writing notes from the travels I did between 1981 and 1994. One of those years I spent in India. At one point, I was writing short simple poems that were published in company newsletters and local newspapers. When I was younger, I wrote a couple of political poems for the student movement in Mexico City. In 1996, I decided to join a Latino writers group in Seattle, where I learned more about writing. That is when I decided to get serious about writing poetry.

What is the single most surprising thing you’ve learned about poetry?

Poetry is a medium by which we can express what we see, feel, hear, taste, smell and experience, whether animate or inanimate, in an artistic way by sounding off words in a rhythmic voice.

If you could choose one person, dead or alive, who influenced you as a writer, who would that be? How did he or she impact your writing experience?

Renato Leduc

Renato Leduc

For me it would be Renato Leduc. A French-Mexican Poet, Journalist and signaler for Francisco Villa.

I remember Renato reciting his poems in the middle of my father’s restaurant in Mexico City. I was a young lad then and had no idea what poetry was. Then one day I discovered his poems and stories in an anthology of Mexican poets and writers. On one of my trips to Mexico City, I found his complete works, which were not translated into English. To my delight, I’ve translated one of his poems into English, which was published on-line by Pirene’s Fountain in 2011.

What kind of non-literary books stimulated your poetry?

Having learned English in Mexico City, I would say Dick and Jane. I still have a couple of those books.

The famous Dick and Jane books

The famous Dick and Jane books

Which book of poetry is most important to you and your work as a poet?

Since I have lived in two countries, from México it would be Jaime Sabines’ Poesía Amorosa, and from the USA, Denise Levertov’s Relearning the Alphabet.

What do you believe your readers enjoy most about your work?

Our personal diaspora, connectivity and ethnic identification. Family, migration, the uncertain future and the certainty of the roots that keep us growing.

Raúl Sanchéz, poet

Raúl Sánchez, poet

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Here is one of Raúl Sánchez’s poems, the one I’ll be making into a poetry broadside. The broadside will be available free at the reading, and we hope you’ll make a donation to help us continue bringing poets to Bellingham.

Every Dress a Decisión
after Elizabeth Austen

My older sister could never
ever decide what to wear
on Friday and Saturday nights

My parents told her too short, too tight
what that meant I didn’t understand
all I know is that my older sister

went away wearing her platform shoes
and skin-tight skirts every time
she could sneak out

after my parents went to bed
and I fell asleep
while watching Superman

Raúl’s comments about his poem:

I went to the Richard Hugo House the night Elizabeth Austen read at the “Cheap Wine and Poetry” series after her book release for Every Dress A Decision. The title of the book stayed with me and triggered a poem thinking about my older sister, who doesn’t exist since I’m the oldest. Perhaps wishful thinking lead to the idea that “If I would’ve had an older sister, that’s what she would’ve done” back in 1969. My editor decided to change the word “Decision” to “Decisión” to add flavor to the poem. I gave the poem to Elizabeth handwritten in Spanish on one of the postcards she made to promote her book.

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We hope you join us for this poetry reading at the Lucia Douglas Gallery, which is showing collaborations between the artists Thomas Wood and FishBoy (RR Clark). Strange and wonderful art.

Posted by Anita K. Boyle

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